This The Passage review contains spoilers.
The Passage Episode 2
The Passage series premiere was pretty good, despite feeling a bit disjointed, a patched-together pilot from two directors. It also felt a little paint-by-the-numbers formulaic as it set the table for quite a few plot threads – including the end of the world. In the age of binge-worthy programming and HBO-level budgets, The Passage‘s opening hour felt very “network” (and sounded like it, too. Who can forget “Holy dammit!”).
Still, there was potential, thanks to the relationship building between agent Brad Wolgast (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and Amy Belafonte (Saniyya Sidney), the young girl he is sent to kidnap for the shadowy government operation Project Noah. Episode 2, “You Owe Me A Unicorn” is a step up, with a cohesive tone and does more to flesh out its other characters, while also introducing more horror and slowly setting up the vampires held captive at Noah as a growing threat.
Picking up from the end of the premiere, the episode begins with an injured Wolgast and Amy on the run from Richards (Vincent Piazza, who is not given anything to work with character-wise). The duo ends up in a small town and briefly play a single dad-and-daughter routine to gain access to a school bus to snag its first aid kit. Amy turns out to be really good at being undercover, saying her “mom” ran off with a fitness instructor who has his own YouTube channel, and the comedic moment serves to reinforce the chemistry between the two.
After being introduced as kidnapper and kidnapped in the first episode and bonding super fast, Sidney and Gosselaar’s performance sells the connection. In a scene reminiscent of 2017’s Logan, Wolgast starts to pass out from his bullet wound while driving and Amy is left wondering if he’s going to live. She understandably freaks out a little and calls his ex Lila (Emmanuelle Chriqui), who walks her through reviving him. The pair then makes a pact: “You don’t leave me, I don’t leave you” – which is put to the test by episode’s end when Richards finally catches up with them at a safe house owned by Lacy, a former nun, and Wolgast’s Navy instructor.
The sequence at Lacy’s house offers the characters a much-needed moment to breathe — while also exploring Wolgast’s backstory (We get it: he lost his own child and is now trying to make up for it) — but the TV logic falters a bit. Wolgast doesn’t alter his plan despite knowing the cell Amy used to call Lila can pinpoint their location for Richards. And Lila, who is being watched, shows up at Lacy’s as well. Lacy is a dead-too-soon mentor character, but the showdown at Lacy’s moves the plot along. Wolgast tries to sacrifice himself to ensure Amy’s escape, but she instead surrenders. The episode ends with both packed up to be shipped to the Noah base in Colorado (while Lila presumably escapes).
Meanwhile, back at Noah HQ, the global avian flu is in high gear, but Dr. Jonas Lear (Henry Ian Cusick) is encouraging Dr. Major Nichole Sykes (Caroline Chikezie) to reconsider bringing in Amy to use as their test subject (if you’ll recall, Project Noah decided it needed a young test subject to inject with the vampire/viral serum to create a cure for the flu).
Through a series of flashbacks, we learn Lear is a haunted man. His wife suffered from early onset Alzheimers and he viewed the trip to Bolivia (from the pilot) as a way to heal her and put an end to all diseases. To fund the trip, he teamed with his old friend Tim Fanning (Jamie McShane), a celebrity neurologist with a big ego. It just so happens the Department of Defense is the one offering up the most money, and despite his ailing wife’s objections, Lear agrees to partner with the military for the trip.
Cusick (Lost) is typically an enjoyable presence on screen and his Lear is the guilt-ridden voice of conscience in The Passage. His interactions with Carter (McKinley Belcher III) — one of “The Twelve” death row prisoners turned human guinea pigs – is interesting, but Lear is not an especially exciting character to watch just yet.
However, the flashbacks do quite a bit to flesh out Fanning. He is shown to be arrogant and more interested in fame and fortune from a potential “cure for everything” rather than guided by a moral compass. He is not a complete monster (yet). Fanning seems to be taken aback when he learns of Lear’s wife’s illness, and lest we forget, he was the one who stupidly rushed in to save the sick man/alpha vampire in the pilot. Of course, that’s how we get vampires, kids, and how Fanning became Patient Zero/Daddy Blood Sucker.
Vampire Fanning, along with Babcock (Brianne Howey), has a lot to chew on in this episode. After Carter undergoes the process that will slowly transform him into a viral vamp, he has an out-of-body encounter in which a human-appearing Fanning and Babcock lure him into a creepy bar (because the Overlook Hotel can’t have the only creepy bar in Colorado) to seduce and threaten. Seemingly acting as his Number Two, Babcock extracts a tooth from Carter, who is reluctant to throw in with their ranks (so we can expect him to be the “good” vampire?).
The Passage also delivers some light gore, with a horror scene where Babcock gets to feed on a creeper maintenance worker who is just asking for it. It is a good bait-and-switch jump scare moment that you can see coming a mile away, but is still satisfying to watch the bully become dinner while the meek and destined patsy Grey (Jason Fuchs) avoids the bite. The patricidal vampire Babcock is scary and cunning, and Howey’s movements and lupine gaze make the character especially unsettling.
Two episodes in, The Passage shows promise. At the very least, there is enough here to hold my interest until the next episode. The characters are jelling, and Fanning and Babcock are juicy villains in the making. The sooner they begin bringing people together at Project Noah, the better. The Passage is not edge-of-the-seat entertainment as of yet, but it is engaging enough for a Monday night watch.
Listen to the Sci Fi Fidelity podcast discussion of The Passage:
Aaron Sagers is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.